I Will Always Be A Member of the Bloody Pirates'
My father always wanted a boy. This was common knowledge in
the family. I was the first born and the first disappointment.
As soon as I was old enough to understand the problem I determined
to remedy the matter by becoming a very thorough to
In the silent movies my mother watched as a girl, tomboys were
endearing young women, saucy in their imitation maleness.
I possessed three important tomboy characteristics
- Red hair
- I was skinny
I set about acquiring the necessary skill set.
- Climbing trees
- Scouting skills
- A gang
A gang, you say? Yes, a gang. It was called the Bloody Pirates
Club. I had been influenced by Robert Louis Stevenson and his
imitators. I read Treasure Island again and again. In my own
mind I *was* Jim, the boy adventurer, who travelled to the island
and hung out with pirates.
Who was in the gang? Young males around my own age who lived
within calling distance in the Veteran's Land Act subdivision
called Sprucedale in the city of Chatham.
We had codes and secret passwords. We could signal in semaphore
(I learned that in Girl Guides) and knew how to tap out S.O.S.
in morse code. Most importantly, we had adventures.
The Thames River runs through Chatham. Most times it is a broad,
tame muddy thing suitable for docking a yacht near the bottom
of Tecumseh Park. In the Spring the tame Thames could turn into
a raging torrent, clawing at its banks and, occasionally, flooding
the main street. The Thames was just finishing its Spring run
and was still turbulent when the Bloody Pirate's Club, out for
a hike, discovered a partially sunken rowboat The boat was close
enough to shore to grab, if a strong pirate, holding on to a
river branch and supported by the rest of the piratical crew,
could grasp it. We debated the situation. I was bound and determined
to enter the boat and travel in it. The current was swift and
strong. If it sunk we would not just be pirates without a boat,
we would be drowned pirates.
We had to have the boat or be pirates forever land-locked.
Ronnie Peters, who had more strength than brains, was gradually
pulling the craft to shore. Being waterlogged it was heavy.
He managed to turn it broadside to the current while trying
to tug it towards us. The fierce river grabbed it like a dog
a bone, pulled it out into itself where, unsupported by the
muddy river bottom, the rowboat very promptly sank. I count
that moment as a kind of fork or turning in my life. Had we
succeeded I'd have been drowned. We returned home a very sober
lot of pirates.
Our next adventure, riding the farmer's plow horse, proved
equally unsuccessful. Another hike through a woodlot took us
to a field where an enormous white work horse was placidly grazing.
Repeated efforts to lure it near enough to a fence where we
could mount the beast were thwarted by the horse's insistence
on stepping away before one of us could land on its back. The
highlight of that day was when Dick Blackwell (who grew up to
become a math teacher) slipped on a rather fresh cow pie to
the detriment of his wardrobe.
The last adventure of the Bloody Pirate's Club that I will
tell you about was the tale of the partially cooked chicken.
We were in another woodlot that backed up on a farmyard. A large
hen had managed to work her way through the fence in search
of better bugs. Bad move, Mrs. Hen, for the Bloody Pirate's
Club has found you out. Intent on a chicken dinner we captured
Mrs. Hen, holding her beak closed to stop the cackle. Not an
easy thing to do with a large hen. We were faced with the terrible
fact that, if you wanted to eat a chicken, you first had to
kill it. I was the creative genius of the group and all eyes
turned to me.
I had a habit of catching garter snakes and whirling them about
my head to make them dizzy enough for me to examine them at
my leisure. The hen had a long skinny neck and a round heavy
body. Combining these facts with my knowledge of the physics
of snake stunning I proceeded to whirl the unfortunate hen about
my head while holding on to its neck. The hen died dramatically.
Next problem was cooking it. We had matches, we had dry wood.
None of us wanted to pluck or clean the hen. We set her on the
fire as she was, a kind of burnt offering. After a very tentative
taste of the most cooked part we buried the evidence.
The title of this speech is "I Will Always Be a Member of the
Bloody Pirate's Club". My mother, who had a wicked sense of
humour teased me about my gang and unwisely, I told her ""I
Will Always Be a Member of the Bloody Pirate's Club"
"Would you sign a piece of paper with that promise?," she asked.
I told her I would sign it in blood but she said that wouldn't
be necessary. Ink would do. I signed. She kept this piece of
paper and as I advanced in years she would bring it out and
ask if it still applied.
I always answered, with some embarrassment, that
"I Will Always Be a Member of the Bloody Pirate's Club"
Bloody Pirate's Club"